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    #1

    "may not be" vs "may be not"

    (1) She may not be at home.
    (2) She may be not at home.

    Is there any difference between these two sentences?

  2. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: "may not be" vs "may be not"

    1. It is impossible for her to be at home.
    2. It is possible for her to be not at home.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #3

    Re: "may not be" vs "may be not"

    In 1. not negates the modality of may, to make may not. (The function of may may or may not be impossibilty.)
    In 2. not negates at home, to make not at home.

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    #4

    Re: "may not be" vs "may be not"

    Quote Originally Posted by lagoo View Post
    (1) She may not be at home.

    That's good. You can also say:

    - She might not be at home.
    - She might not be home.
    - She may not be home.

    (2) She may be not at home.

    That's not good. You can say:

    - She may not be home.
    - She may not be at home.
    - She might not be home.
    - She might not be at home.
    - Maybe she's not at home.
    - Maybe she's not home.


    Is there any difference between these two sentences?
    Yes. The first is correct. The second isn't.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #5

    Re: "may not be" vs "may be not"

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Wai View Post
    1. It is impossible for her to be at home.
    2. It is possible for her to be not at home.
    No, that's incorrect.
    Sentence #1 in post #1 means she may be at home or she may be somewhere else.
    Sentence #2 in post #1 is incorrect, as Charlie Bernstein has pointed out.
    Last edited by teechar; 16-Mar-2017 at 13:45. Reason: added a missing "be"

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    #6

    Re: "may not be" vs "may be not"

    Quote Originally Posted by teechar View Post
    No, that's incorrect.
    Sentence #1 in post #1 means she may be at home or she may be somewhere else.
    Sentence #2 in post #1 is incorrect, as Charlie Bernstein has pointed out.
    Does that mean we cannot put "not" after "a modal verb + be" to negate the sentence?

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    #7

    Re: "may not be" vs "may be not"

    Quote Originally Posted by lagoo View Post
    Does that mean we cannot put "not" after "a modal verb + be" to negate the sentence?
    I think "cannot" is too strong, but it's certainly much more natural to put the "not" immediately after the modal.

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    #8

    Re: "may not be" vs "may be not"

    Although She may be not at home is possible, it's awkward and not very natural. Instead of negating at home, you can simply say She may be out.

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